Friday, August 6, 2010

Destination of the Week...

Situated at 1579m (4736ft) above sea level, in a mountain ridge on the Southern Highlands of Sri Lanka, Haputale offers glorious 360° views, a cool climate, and a serene atmosphere to relax in. Its high elevation allows a bird’s eye view of the surrounding area. In one direction you will see plains run into the coast and in the other direction, misty clouds sitting in the rolling hills that run into more hills, next to more hills. Sights and nearby attractions include, of course, the Haputale Gap, the purple cone of Namunukul, Horton Plains National Park, Diyaluma Falls, Tangamalai bird sanctuary, and the nearby Benedictine monastery of Adhisham. When the veil of fog lifts from the mountains you can look out at the bright blue waters of the Indian Ocean, and on a rare cloudless night, you’ll see the rays of the little lighthouse of Hambantot stabbing through the dark sky. Take a leisurely walk or a tiresome trek to the famous Dambatenne tea factory, or up to Lipton’s Seat, where the panoramic views will sweep you off your feet. “Lipton” may not sound like a name that fits into this Sri Lankan mountain scene, but the name pays homage to Sir Thomas Lipton, as Haputale is where he bought his first tea plantation, to supply his great Lipton empire, back in the 1890’s. Experienced hikers will enjoy the 14km stretch from Haputale to Pattipola, where it’s unusual to see anyone else. Instead, you’ll be kept company by blue and red gum trees and winding vines. Haputale offers cheap accommodation too. You can arrange for a home stay or camp out in the Haputale Forest Reserve. Or, if you wish to experience life at the Adhisham monastery for a few strict days, you can try writing to Father Bernard to see if he’ll grant your request.

Haputale is 193km (119 miles) east of Colombo and there are several ways to get this mountain town. The train ride to Haputale is often regarded as one of the best experiences in Sri Lanka, but the drives are no less exciting. When descending upon Haputale from the main road, the incline is so severe, it seems as if your vehicle will become airborne. You can catch a bus to Haputale from Wellawaya, Bandarawela, and other cities. Or take a train on the ColomboBadulla line. No matter how you end up in the mountains of Haputale, you’ll come away feeling relaxed and refreshed, with a whole new take on Sri Lanka.

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